REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Nortonsville: It makes a village

ADDRESS: 1784 Simmons Gap Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: Nortonsville 

ASKING: $320,000

2006 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $96.900 


SIZE: 5.228 unfin. sq. ft.

LAND: 11 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10

LISTED BY: Stuart Rifkin of Hasbrouck Real Estate 434-466-9515

When the current owner bought this property, the agent quipped, "You now own the town of Nortonsville." As exciting as that might sound, the heyday of this once-thriving village has long passed.

But the place is not without a certain appeal. Anyone driving along Route 810, 15 miles past Crozet, is probably out for a country cruise anyway and wouldn't mind stopping to sip some lemonade on the front porch and listen to some local lore. But lore is the only thing on offer these days.

Like many villages in the early 1900s, Nortonsville contained everything necessary for commerce and community. Along with the store there was a blacksmith shop, a barbershop, two schoolhouses, a gristmill, a doctor's office, a dental practice, a gas station, several residences, and inevitably, an undertaker. (Unfortunately, the building that was shaped like a coffin has been moved to another property.) But now all that stands is an odd mishmash of misshapen structures that could confuse even a mouse.

As beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so it seems, does potential. Renovations began at the back of the store with the demolition of an exterior staircase and balcony. Plans to enclose this space and make an interior atrium began– and, shortly thereafter, ended.

Everything else lies in a state of entropy. But the fundamental craftsmanship and seemingly solid construction have held up well over the years. Floors and walls show no sign of water or termite damage. No light peeps through the tin sheathing covering the roof, and the doors and windows all open and shut as if installed yesterday.

The many incarnations of the place make it somewhat dicey to project how best to use all this space. From 1891 to the 1950s, the families who owned and operated the store lived either behind and above it or directly next to it. Now it shows like a warren of dusty rooms of indeterminate use.

Clustered around the store are various outbuildings, all included in the sale. Each has unique attributes that could be fitted to many uses. Because the place was recently used as a garage and junkyard, many of the structures (as well as some of the land) are chockablock with flotsam. One of the schoolhouses has been turned into a single-family residence with almost all the comforts of home– except plumbing. A trailer with composting toilet provides some convenience.

The most impressive element in the conglomeration is what the owner claims is a chestnut barn. Large, imposing, and as solid as the day it was built, it lends a majestic aura to the otherwise funky landscape. Before the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, the wood proved invaluable as a building material. Tall, straight trees with no knots gave it superior strength, and– best of all– nothing eats it. A rat-proof corn crib and several large grain bins survive intact. Downstairs, four full-sized stalls await livestock. Upstairs, a huge space keeps those hay bales dry and out of the way.

The land is mostly flat with bookend views of Brokenback (makes one think of cowpokes, eh?) and Bingham mountains. Part of the tract is in Greene County, but most of the properties on the north side of the road run traverse both counties at various points. The preacher at Bingham Methodist Church likes to say that he stands in Albemarle County to preach while his congregation sits in Greene to listen.

And that's pretty much it for Nortonsville lore.

Getting rid of the detritus surrounding the buildings might make it easier to plan future uses, but whoever takes over will have to have a big vision and an even bigger wallet.

It's going to take a village (along with a backhoe and several dump trucks) to see what can be made of Nortonsville.

Photos courtesy of the agent